Kigali is a sparklingly-clean and highly organised city that few international visitors expect to find in the centre of the African continent; smooth tarmac with countdown traffic lights connects brand-new buildings here.
Kigali International Airport is the aviation hub for the Gorilla Highlands region, both on the Rwandan and the Ugandan side.
The must-see attraction is the beautiful memorial museum that bears witness to the genocide against the Tutsis that shook the country in 1994. While it also features similar crimes against humanity elsewhere in the world, its primary message is the power of Rwanda’s reconciliation, resilience and potential.
population 1,200,000; elevation 1,567 m/ 5,141 ft
Photo: Miha Logar
If you are visiting Volcanoes National Park and prefer urban environments, Musanze (also known as Ruhengeri) is your choice. A tidy town surrounded by volcanoes, it offers accommodation solutions for all budgets, good eating, and international banks. Kinigi village (northwest of the town, 12km/7.5mi) is where the park HQ are, and many more lodges.
population 90,000; elevation 1,850m/6,070ft
Photo: Marcus Westberg
Kabale is found at 1,863m/6,115ft above sea level. It offers all you may expect, including an impressive selection of banks, a number of supermarkets and popular night clubs. Among Ugandans it has a reputation as a very cold place. Elders can tell you how they couldn’t write at school in winter (June–July) since their hands were shaking too much. However, the temperatures today are higher—not much above 20°C/68°F during the day, 10°C/50°F at night.
A challenging 9-hole golf course can be found above the town. Eager golfers are advised to check beforehand as they might need to cut the grass first…
The Bakiga Museum displays a traditional grass homestead complete with furniture and unique tools—a fascinating creation by a local elder Festo Karwemera.
About 8km/5mi from Kabale in a small muddy grove on the road to Rwanda are some hot springs. Do not expect too much—but it can be fun to share with local people, especially for them.
population 40,000; elevation 1,863m/6,115ft
Photo: Shay Stevenson
Kisoro, the region’s prettiest town, is located at 1,890m/6,200ft in an idyllic setting below the volcanoes. It hosts colourful cross-border markets, with Monday being the biggest market day when Kabale Road turns into a major clothes display; it becomes especially lively after 3pm. On the other side of Kisoro, on Mgahinga Road, a vegetable market takes place. The action repeats itself on Thursdays, usually on a smaller scale.
The town also has a strong beekeeping community. Honey and souvenirs can be purchased at a couple of town offices and beekeeping tours can be organised.
Kisoro is the ideal base for adventures in Mgahinga and lies only a couple of hours away from Bwindi. In fact, the town was the cradle of gorilla tracking. Travellers Rest is the hotel where it all started from, also known for great and reasonably priced food. Gourmets will appreciate Coffee Pot and Mucha Bistro too.
population 13,000; elevation 1,890m/6,200ft
Photo: Blasio Byekwaso